- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md.

The worth of a man can’t be measured when all is well and everything is perfect. No, it’s when times are tough and nature throws him one curveball after another that reveals what a person is made of.

Karl Bunch, a northern Chesapeake Bay fishing guide who works the tidal Susquehanna, Northeast, Sassafras and Elk rivers, showed me his mettle this week. The fortyish Bunch, perennially in need of a shave because of what he calls a kind of Don Johnson look, picked up me and another Southern Marylander at the Tydings Memorial Park here and smiled confidently.

That alone caused us to become nervous ninnies because the morning called for the tide to sit still at 8 a.m., meaning our chances for getting some of the Susquehanna’s many largemouth bass would be minimal. In addition, there would be a high-pressure system, which often clamps the mouth of the fish together. To top it off, the forecast also called for steadily increasing blasts of wind.

Just what we’d hoped for.

Not.

Bunch looked at us and said, “Don’t worry. We’ll find the bass.” With that, this man who owns two boats, each intended for particular applications, launched a spanking new Crestliner bass boat and slowly idled away from the launch area of a park that is very popular because of the often frantic fishing found in this portion of Chesapeake Bay Country.

He turned to the southwestern side of the river, pushed down the accelerator of a strong outboard motor and allowed the boat to jump on plane, then soon slowed it down again. Bunch slipped a bow-mounted electric trolling motor into water that was no deeper than 4 or 5 feet and pointed toward a gravel shoreline that was dotted with partially sunken tree trunks and spindly branches.

The three of us began casting soft plastic lures that bass hounds generally refer to only as craws. In Bunch’s case, the licensed fishing guide attached a 1/4-ounce Spot Hopper jig to a soft craw known as Lil Sweet P — all of it in a green pumpkin color. I’d never seen this brand before, but it’s not likely I’ll forget it, because alongside a waterlogged tree Bunch fooled a bass with it. He put the hook to a fish that wasn’t a world beater, but it was a bass.

My co-pilot during our trip up I-95 came next when he found a bass on an oddly named craw bait, a Yo-Mama, then followed it up with yet another fish shortly thereafter. And me? Well, I had a largemouth get hold of a garlic-scented Zero worm and it wouldn’t let go. It shouldn’t have been allowed to be away from its mother because this youth was too little to be out on its own.

The wind now began to pick up speed, chasing away the clouds, bending sapling trees. In the distance, across the famed Susquehanna Flats, small white-capped waves could now be seen.

When Bunch turned into a local hot spot known as the Apartment Cove, he accurately predicted that we’d find action there. “I don’t know if they’ll be pre-spawn, spawn, or post-spawn bass,” he said, “but the fish should be fish here. You’re likely to find all three types now.”

Although we made many fruitless casts, watching adult pairs of Canada geese swimming about, zealously guarding their fist-sized goslings, the fish would not bite. I dared our guide to come up with a bass that I could snap a photo of. I was snickering, figuring the odds said he couldn’t do it.

But Bunch would not be deterred. He gritted his teeth and fished as if he were in a big-bucks tournament. He eventually latched onto several bass, as did my boat partner.

The wind increased ever more, the clouds were gone, and the sky was higher than any kite could reach.

Bunch looked at me and said, “Normally, it’s a lot better, but you get the idea, don’t you?” Yes, we got it, and along with it the guide showed he was plenty tough and skilled. For him, giving up and quitting was not an option.

If you want a half or full day with Bunch, give him a call on his cell phone and check his prices: 410/459-7445.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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